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GM Appoints Chief Product Cybersecurity Officer

Jeffrey Massimilla has been appointed chief product cybersecurity officer of General Motors, the carmaker announced Tuesday.

Before being named GM's first cybersecurity chief, Massimilla held a couple of management roles within the division responsible for the company's infotainment systems. Most recently, he held the role of director of global validation.

Massimilla was selected to lead the company's cybersecurity efforts because he was the best candidate for the job, GM told SecurityWeek.

GM and OnStar, the subsidiary responsible for vehicle security and safety, and navigation systems, are actively working on addressing ever-evolving data security issues, the company said.

"[We] have increased our focus and intensity to combat these risks by forming one integrated organization, Vehicle and Vehicle Services Cybersecurity which is responsible for cybersecurity related to the vehicle and vehicle connected services," GM said in an emailed statement. "This team will utilize our internal experts and work with outside specialists, to develop and implement protocols and strategies to reduce the risks associated with cybersecurity threats. In addition, we are actively engaged in industry-wide efforts, like those of SAE International, to address vehicle security issues and develop industry standards that can be applied in the future."

The fact that GM has appointed a cybersecurity leader is not surprising considering that security researchers and even lawmakers have been putting pressure on car makers to ensure that the software systems installed on vehicles can't be hacked.

In June, Target Corp. announced that it had hired away GM's CISO and information technology risk officer Brad Maiorino who took the role as senior vice president and chief information security officer at Target.

Last year at the Def Con security conference, researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek demonstrated that they could hack modern cars and manipulate steering, acceleration, safety sensors and other components.

In August, a group of security researchers launched an initiative called "I am the Cavalry" in an effort to convince automakers to implement security programs aimed at making cars more resilient to cyberattacks.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.